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PRESS STATEMENT April 15, 1999


Tonga's former Prime Minister, HRH Prince Fatafehi Tu‘ipelehake, 77, who died at the weekend in New Zealand, will be remembered by the 16-member South Pacific Forum group as a founding member with a strong regional focus.

"As one of the seven founding members at the first South Pacific Forum in1971, Prince Tu‘ipelehake recognized the value of a united voice on important regional issues," said Acting Secretary General of the South Pacific Forum Secretariat, Mr. Iosefa Maiava.

"His desire for countries to tackle common issues from a regional perspective, and to give our views greater weight in the international arena, helped develop the Forum into the strong organization it is today. Many of the issues they discussed at that first meeting -- such as trade and investment, shipping and aviation links, tourism, education, telecommunications development, law of the sea issues and regional development -- remain a key focus for the Forum member states and the Forum Secretariat.

"In June this year, the Forum Trade Ministers will consider the setting up of a free trade area among Forum members. If they decide to go ahead, then the region will have finally realized one of the long standing dreams of the founding fathers of the South Pacific Forum," Mr. Maiava said.

During a distinguished political career as Tonga's Prime Minister from 1965 to 1991, HRH Prince Tu‘ipelehake also served as Forum Chair when Tonga hosted the Forum in 1975 and 1988.

Funeral arrangements for the former Prime Minister are scheduled to be held this weekend in Tonga's capital, Nuku‘alofa.

The seven founding members at the 1971 Forum in Wellington, New Zealand were the then Prime Minister of New Zealand, Rt. Hon. Sir Keith Holyoake; Premier (title later changed to Prime Minister) of the Cook Islands, Hon. Albert Henry; Prime Minister of Fiji, Hon. Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara; President of Nauru, HE Hammer De Roburt; Prime Minister of Tonga, HRH Prince Fatafehi Tu‘ipelehake; Prime Minister of Samoa, Hon. Tupua Tamasese Lealofi IV; and the Australian Minister for External Territories Mr. C.E. Barnes.

For additional information: Ulafala Aiavao (

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